Book Recommendations, Reading

November & December Reading

I’ve been going back and forth lately about whether I still want to be doing these book review posts this next blogging year—while I freely admit I am a bit of a fanatic when it comes to reading (and book lists), I realize that not everyone shares my same obsession. So, on that note, I’d like your input—yea or nay on the monthly book posts? Or would you rather I only recommend something when it’s out-of-this-world amazing? Or, if we’re feeling really brave, would you rather that I do a little “book club” discussion every month?

Let me know your thoughts!

Note: There are affiliate links to books mentioned below, which means I may get a small commission on any purchases made at no extra cost to you.

And now, for my latest reads:

Atonement by Ian McEwan

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it said (but you probably shouldn’t quote me on this) that Ian McEwan is considered one of the greatest writers of our day. You’d think with such a statement, I would have been reading all of his stuff cover-to-cover for the twentieth time already, but this book is actually the first I’ve picked up of his (although I do, in fact, own 2-3 other books by him).

My feelings were pretty mixed about this book. I thought the pace at first was a little too glacial for me (and I’m a pretty darn patient reader), but by the end, I could see the brilliance in the writing choices, including the slow pacing. There is also a pivotal scene in the book that was a little uncomfortable for me to get through—while I’m not always as “clean” as I probably should be with my reading choices, I do try to avoid books I know will have graphic sex scenes or strong language.And this book had a little of both.

However, all that aside, I thought the ending was pretty stunning. It kind of reminded me of what I said about A Handmaid’s Tale—that at the end, I just wanted to say, “Are you KIDDING me?!”, but at the same time, I kind of loved the fact that my mind just got blown. I don’t know if anyone else has read this, but I’m super curious to hear other people’s opinions on the end; it’s definitely one of those things that could bring up a pretty strong love/hate reaction, depending on how much you feel you need closure.

My Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Cleanliness Rating: There are a couple graphic sex scenes (not super long but that are pivotal to the story) and some moments of strong language. Tread carefully.

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow

This novella is on my 100 Most-Recommended Classics list, and I’d been intending to pick it up forever (especially after I found out how short it was!), but I just hadn’t. And truthfully, this book is not what I was expecting AT ALL.

The premise of the story is about this middle-aged guy who is in a total funk—he feels like he’s wasted a lot of his life, and he continues to blame his father and his almost-ex-wife for all his problems. The story follows him through every step of a momentous day in his life.

Sounds like it could be pretty great, right? Well, I’m not gonna lie—this took me awhile to muddle through. It’s not that the writing is difficult at all: it’s the fact that the plot moves R E A L L Y slowly, and by the end, I wasn’t even sure that there was a clear resolution to any of the conflicts that had been brought up. You know back in school, how you learn to plot out stories on one of those little checkmark chart things? And how every story should have a conflict, rising action, climax, and resolution?

Well, this story didn’t.

There were some really cool thoughts in it (which I highlighted in my copy of the book because I’m like that), but by the end, I really wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel—it was as if I’d followed a stranger around all day and then randomly decided I was sick of it and left.

So do me a favor—someone read this book and then explain it to me. Mmkay?

My Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
Cleanliness: From what I remember, this book’s pretty clean.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Each year, I read this book with my students, so this is my third year in a row reading it. If you want to read my full review of the book, click here.

The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

I can’t believe it took me so long to discover Margaret Atwood—I mean, her books are on all my modern classics lists and on most readers’ choice lists too, so I don’t know why it took me so many years to get my head into one of her novels. Last year I read The Handmaid’s Tale by her (which I mentioned earlier in this very post), and it was one of my favorite books of 2013. Heck, it might even be one of my favorite dystopian novels of all time.

Although I didn’t love The Robber Bride quite as much as Handmaid’s Tale, her writing is delicious enough that she could be telling me about paint drying and I’d like it. This book was the story of three college friends who meet up later in life when a fourth college friend (who they thought had died and who had basically ruined their lives) turns out not to be dead after all.

Atwood is a stunning writer, and this book has some pretty awesome characters in it. If nothing else, check this book out for a good study in what good characterization is all about.

My Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Cleanliness Rating: This is definitely a novel for adults due to certain thematic elements, strong language, and a few graphic sex/violence scenes.

What have you read lately? Anything good?

And don’t forget to put in your two cents on my questions at the beginning—I really want to know!

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